Versus Arthritis Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis
University of Nottingham

The Rugby Study: A cross sectional study of former University and elite rugby players


Rugby is an International sport, with over 5 million individuals playing throughout 117 countries. In England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, there are over 2.4 million players.

Injury rates within rugby are higher than for many other sports. These injury rates are monitored within elite and community rugby through injury surveillance projects, however, there is little research exploring the long-term positive and negative effects of playing the sport. It is currently not known if injuries that occur whilst playing rugby are associated with negative health effects in later life. The general health  of former amateur and professional rugby players, as compared to non-rugby players, has not been studied in great detail, and the differences in long-term health between amateur and professional players is also not known.


What the research hopes to achieve

As part of the wider aims of the Centre, this study is designed to help us understand which injuries lead to long-term pain and disability and for whom. The study will explore how playing sport, undertaking exercise and suffering with injury may be associated with the development of osteoarthritis.  The study will also look at which of these factors may be more predictive of negative outcomes. 

This study uses an online questionnaire to assess the background, playing history, medical history, previous injuries, current injuries and pain of ex-rugby players. The study will produce an injury and pain profile of retired players throughout their career and into their retirement, and assess how common osteoarthritis is within this group. This will allow further study of risk factors for osteoarthritis in general, and also within ex-rugby players with reference to their playing level, playing position and gender. 


Work Package Epidemiology (WP1) 
Principal Investigators Prof Nigel Arden and Dr Julia Newton (University of Oxford) 
Investigator Madi Davies
Collaborator English Rugby Football Union

female rugby players